My introduction to the Weta trimaran came on a snowy winter day in Baltimore, along with a promise of a free koozie. The 14-foot trimaran was one of the few sailboats on display at what was traditionally a power and fishing show. Three years later, Iâm a proud Weta owner, learning by trial and error how to sail it smarter and ultimately faster. And fortunately for me, there are three great regattas in my home state of Florida that attract Weta owners from across the country. At the end of the day, though, itâs not all about the racing.
My husband, Clint, and I were exactly who Roger and Chris Kitchen had in mind when they designed a boat that was simple but still quick enough to be exciting. As a novice, I was looking for a small, stable boat to brush up on my sailing skills. The carbon fiber elements in the Weta make it light enough for me to assemble the boat and launch on my own. Once on the water, the helm is responsive and the three hulls keep the boat stable, giving me the confidence to explore and grow as a sailor.
But donât let my mild-mannered description fool you. When Clint is at the helm, the training wheels comes off. He trims the racing sails and pops the screecher for a fast, controlled, fun sail across the bay.
âWeta racing is a heap of fun,â says Class President Bruce Fleming âThe Weta is easy to maneuver, so itâs super tactical upwind, and then itâs all on downwind, picking the best angle to sail with the screecher and looking out for shifts. Throw a blasting reach in and you have the perfect Weta day!â
Winner of the 2010 Sailing World International Boat of the Year, the fleet has grown to over 900 boats in 24 countries. U.S. fleet members travel great distances to race year-round, and with a chill in the air over much of the country in February and March, many of them head to Florida for great racing and even better social activities.
The Charlotte Harbor Regatta, now in its fifth year, is set for Feb. 6-9, 2014. Last yearâs event had over 100 one-design boats in 10 classes, including six multihull classes. The well-protected harbor just north of Fort Myers provides outstanding conditions for all skill levels.
Regatta Chairman Brian Gleason explained that the mission of this regatta has always been to promote sailing on Charlotte Harbor. âWe are one of the few regattas where the yacht clubs from around the harbor open up their doors to host dinners for the racers,â Gleason said.
Gleason said they have enjoyed having the Weta fleet right from the beginning. âThey are just a fun loving bunch, not a cut throat class, who are willing to share information with anyone who asks,â he explained. Port Charlotte Beach makes a great beach launch for the Wetas, and offers a secure place to keep the boats rigged overnight. The three full days of racing make for a great tune up for the WetaFest just four weeks later.
On the panhandle of Florida is Fort Walton Yacht Club, host to the ultimate Weta get together, this year taking place March 7-9, 2014. A large cross section of Weta sailors attend the event each year, from the boatâs designer, Chris Kitchen, to people like me who have never raced their boats before. No matter what happens on the water, the friendly camaraderie at the end of the day reigns supreme.
Last yearâs winner Toni Sacco, from Ithaca, N.Y., explained, âThere was always a hand to help catch you when you sailed into the beach, guide you in adjusting your rigging, give you a tip on how to get the most out of your sail trim, and, in my case, help raise my mast each day.â
When the breeze picked up beyond what Saccoâs petite frame was able to handle alone, fellow racers called around to find her a crew. She ended up with Olympic medalist and multihull guru Randy Smyth. When Toni and Randy collected their awards at the end of the weekend, there were nothing but cheers.
With major support from Weta Marine, the event seems to grow every year. âLast year we had 15 Wetas on the line, and are anticipating 25 this year. Our future goal is 50 Wetas at WetaFest,â said organizer Cliff Farrah.
Sailors traveling from the more Northern states should consider extending their respite from the cold and leaving their boats at the yacht club for the Trimaran Nationals, March 22-23, 2014. Racing alongside the larger Corsair and Farriers trimarans brings a whole new level to the competition, but the same great camaraderie prevails. Not only do the Weta sailors learn from the âbig boys,â they also get to show how much fun it is to sail their pocket-size trimaran.
Whether you are a novice like myself or a hard core racer like my husband, come to Florida to see what this Weta racing is all about. Iâll be there, Weta koozie in hand.